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Growing reliance on data analytics

16 October 2016

A recent survey of senior manufacturing executives has highlighted the fact that manufacturers are banking on data analytics – a key component of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – to help navigate difficult business conditions, despite many planned technology investments in other areas being delayed. 

The survey – Data’s Big Impact on Manufacturing: A Study of Executive Opinions – conducted by Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) and KRC Research, indicated that 67% of 200 manufacturing executives will be pressing ahead with plans to invest in data analytics in the coming year, while at the same time reducing spend in other areas.

Many survey respondents reported that they view data analytics as a viable solution to a cycle of problems that lead to downtime and lost revenue. The survey also found that some companies are feeling pressure to continue working under the threat of unscheduled downtime and equipment breakdowns, which are viewed as being the elements that are most detrimental to maximising revenue. 

The majority of companies have stated that they are already investing in data analytics technology. However, one-quarter of respondents said that they do not plan to invest in data analytics in the next year; citing a lack of understanding of the benefits of data analytics or inadequate resources.

Downtime cycle
Unscheduled downtime was ranked as the top threat to maximising revenue, despite the fact that  42% of respondents admitted that their equipment was being  run harder than it should be. A total of 71% of respondents are experiencing occasional equipment breakdowns, while 64 % are seeing occasional unscheduled downtime.

“Running plant equipment harder than appropriate presents a host of issues ranging from equipment breakdowns to potential safety incidents,” said Andrew Hird, vice president and general manager at HPS Digital Transformation. “Those issues inevitably lead to more downtime, which leads back to lost revenue. It is easy to see how many companies feel that they are caught in a vicious cycle. Predictive analytics achieved through an effective IIoT solution can help companies break out of that cycle.”

While 40% of respondents to the survey ranked unscheduled downtime as the biggest threat to maximising revenue other revenue affecting issues included supply chain management, inadequate staffing; off-spec products; and equipment breakdowns.

A viable solution?
Successful IIoT implementation relies on data analytics and most survey respondents favourably viewed  the benefits of data analytics as a solution. For example, there was general agreement that big data analytics can reduce the occurrence of equipment breakdowns, unscheduled downtime, unscheduled maintenance and supply chain management issues. Respondents also said they believe data can enable well-informed decisions in real time, limit waste and predict the risk of downtime.

“There is a majority belief that data analytics can help combat the biggest business threat – unscheduled downtime,” said Hird. “This is why they feel it makes sense to continue investing.” Additionally, more than two-thirds of respondents said they are currently investing in data analytics, while 50% said they believe their companies are on track in their use of data analytics. Only 15% said they believe their companies are ahead of the curve when it comes to data analytics usage.

While the majority of respondents said they are already investing and/or planning to increase their investments in data analytics in the coming year, 32% said they are not currently investing in data analytics and 33% said their companies are not planning to invest in data analytics in the next 12 months, or are unaware of any plans to do so.

The majority of those who currently have no plans to invest (61%) believe that their organisations already have systems in place to ensure safety, yield and success while others said that their companies have seen some growth without data analytics. A total of 42% said they do not fully understand the benefits of big data and 35% believe that the benefits of  big data are being overstated.

“For some companies there are still hurdles remaining before the IIoT can be fully adopted,” explained Hird, with 63% of survey respondents saying they have no investment plans because they do not have the appropriate resources to do so, while 39% said they don’t have the right staff to make the most of data analytics. “Some don’t believe they need it while others say they lack the resources to do it right,” said Hird. “The good news is that IIoT is something that does not require a wholesale change – it can be phased and scaled depending on an individual company’s circumstances. This is precisely why Honeywell says IIoT represents an evolution, not a revolution.” 

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